by Victor Sesma
Victor Sesma is an Alicantinian living in London. He is a Software Engineer who likes writing about the city he was born.
Your Guide to Alicante [By an Alicantinian]
Alicante is a ~350k people city in Easter Spain, touching the Mediterranean sea. It is a pretty Spanish working city with tourism.
In Alicante, -as per the latest data from EF– the level of English is moderate: 546/1000 points. Tourists will find it easy to effectively communicate in English at hotels, restaurants and touristy attractions. Making new English-speaking friends is easy too thanks to Alicante’s vibrant international community. For longer stays, the city will naturally invite you into learning Spanish to fully integrate with its welcoming people.
In Alicante, there are two official languages -Spanish and Valencian- and English is studied at school. But more languages live in the city.
At Spanish schools, it is mandatory to study a foreign language. It is usually English but some schools would allow you to choose another language such as French.
Children usually start at a young age to learn English; when they are 6 but this not always translates into a good English level.
Over the last few years, the teaching of the foreign language has improved. Some schools in Spain have a degree of bilingualism teaching children a few of the subjects in English.
English level is usually separated into 4 separate competencies:
Exams, usually, have different ways to evaluate these different competencies.
In the last few years, many schools have incorporated conversation assistants giving the opportunity to, usually, young Americans, British or Australians to come to Spain with a scholarship to teach and speak English with the students at a Spanish school.
This way, it would be easier for students to acquire better speaking and listening skills. But the reality is that many people would acquire some degree of proficiency in Reading and Writing but the Speaking and Listening level ends up not being too high.
Also, not every school in Spain have a speaking assistant and the proficiency level acquired by the students will depend on the degree of bilingualism in the School, the teachers and the students themselves. Despite the efforts in improving English teaching, the average student would probably end up having less than a B1 level of English (in Spanish) when leaving school.
Alicante is not different to the rest of Spain in this matter -the English level, on average, is not high-, but has an advantage as an international city.
In Alicante, people understand the importance of English when attending international tourism and virtually all touristy spots in the city speak English: tourist offices, bars and restaurants, monuments and landmarks (such as Alicante’s castle), hotel staff, beaches lifeguards, airport staff, rented car offices and many other people will make a successful effort in communicating in English.
If you are visiting Alicante don’t worry about the English level as you will be able to communicate anything you need with the people you will be in touch with in good English.
When spending more time in Alicante the English level can become a greater challenge.
In Spain and Alicante, there are some services focused on English speakers, such as Lobster -a mobile phone network focused on English speakers in Spain- or online banks with apps and customer support fully in English. But other bills such as electricity or water will be in Spanish.
Alicante also has a big international community which makes it easier to make new English-speaking friends from all over Europe and the world.
But in your day to day, you will, inevitably, encounter the language barrier. Creating connections with local people will be harder as many won’t speak enough English. Going to the grocery store (such as Mercadona) might be an experience as products’ names and descriptions will be only in Spanish and the staff probably won’t speak much English.
The good news is that if you came to Spain to improve your Spanish, then, the city will naturally invite you into improving your Spanish, at the very least, to a basic level, so you can move around in your day-to-day at ease.
If you want to learn Spanish at a higher level many language Schools are teaching Spanish to foreigners plus Alicante has a vibrant and lively vibe where you can find language exchanges in meetup.com and Facebook.com groups to practice your language skills while meeting new friends.
Spain is divided into Autonomous Communities and provinces.
An Autonomous Community is a larger region such as Valencian Community (where Alicante is situated) or Andalucia (where Malaga is situated).
A province is a smaller division such as Alicante province -where Alicante city and Benidorm are located- or Malaga province -where Malaga city or Marbella are located-.
Some of the Autonomous Communities have a second official language apart from Spanish. The Valencian Community, where Alicante is located, have a second language called Valenciano. It is the same language as Catalan spoken in Catalonia (where Barcelona is located) but with a different slang and accent.
The reality is that Valenciano is not spoken in a big chunk of Alicante’s province and the adoption in Alicante city is low compared to other cities in the Autonomous Community. Only 15% of people use Valenciano daily in the city of Alicante (in Spanish). So it won’t be an issue if you want to learn and practice your Spanish.
If you are a tourist or an adult resident this won’t influence your stay at all. Most people speak just Spanish in their day-to-day life and Valenciano is quite a minority language for most people. If you live in the city with school-age children then you should know it is mandatory by law to study some subjects in Valenciano.
In Alicante, there are people from many different nationalities. Some of the languages that you might listen to on the street when you go for a walk are Arabic, French, Italian, Ukrainian, Russian, Chinese and many others.
Here is a list of the top nationalities by the population residing in Alicante city as per 2022 data (source Diputacion de Alicante) and the language spoken in their coutnries of origin:
|Nacionality||Total||Oficial Lanuage(s) Spoken in Origin Country|
|Europe Non EU||7739||–|
|Argelia 🇩🇿||7389||Arabic, French|
|Marruecos 🇲🇦||3882||Arabic, Berber|
|United Kingdom 🇬🇧||1049||English|